I recall one parent ranting that his son will “go to UCLA!” Unfortunately, his grades were going to be an obstacle. For this father, this was the only university for his son. Parents are usually the driving force of where they want their children to attend college because of family legacy, pride, or simple determination.
The odds will never be in your favor. Fewer than 6% of college students attend elite colleges. One of our stellar students who boasted a 4.0 GPA and 34 ACT score was denied admission to Stanford. But what about the odds?
Recently, Jeffrey Selingo of the Washington Post, reviewed the book “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be” by New York Times columnist Frank Bruni. It is a great read for parents who are franticly making life-long judgment calls based on admission to a certain college.
One of my colleagues spoke with a parent who was focusing on the popularity and rankings of colleges where her daughter had been accepted or denied. Wisely, she guided this mom to consider if this was a good fit for her daughter, not if it was an elite name brand (sounds like clothes shopping).
Selingo reports that private high school guidance counselors are often evaluated based on where there students attend. I thought it was about prepared students to succeed. As an independent consultant, I am able to guide students to find colleges that are good academic, social, emotional, and financial fits.
Higher education is about learning: broad subjects, creative problem solving, interacting with diverse people, critical thinking, and earning a degree. So selecting the right major at the right college has more long-term value than attending an elite college or university. That is success!
College planning philosophies will differ from high school guidance counselors to independent educational consultants. However, the goal remains the same. It’s not about graduating high school. It’s not about being accepted to college. It’s about coaching students through the college planning process to find a college or university where they can graduate with a bachelor’s degree in four years. This will result in a lifetime of opportunities including saved time and money (4 vs 6 year graduation), increased earning potential (2xs more than a high school diploma), and establishing a healthier lifestyle regardless of age, income, or demographics.
With that goal in mind, mastering Internet technology for college counseling is important. You should log every podcast, virtual tour, college search engine, scholarship search database, and more so you can guide your students with confidence. Here are some tips to become their digital filter.
Podcasts give you a way to listen to relevant career and college planning content on your time schedule. Listen to a few before recommending them to others. Don’t be afraid of social media, it doesn’t bite. As a college planner, take the time to teach students how to interact and behave with adults using various social media platforms. Videocasts and videos are great ways to learn more about a specific career or topic.
The career search is missing from so many plans and usually limited to what major a student is interested in studying. Help students use personality, learning style, and career assessments to understand who they are and what they like. Look for a college search engine that does not focus on the best marketing campaign, but one that shares the best matches for your student. Before taking campus tours, virtual tours will give students insight, spark excitement, and generate questions to ask on their actual tour.
Since paying for college is at the front of everyone’s mind,helping students find and use quality financial aid, scholarship, tutoring and test prep companies is important. Financial aid sites will include federal and state aid. While students shouldn’t pay for scholarship options, they may find more value in paying for the personal interaction for tutoring and test prep.
Read. Take notes. Read. This is great advice for a student entering college. It’s also great advice for every career and college consultant. Books share planning tips and great stories. Blogs share ongoing, relevant information based on every subject mentioned above. And don’t be afraid to share your own personal experiences either. Write a blog for your local audience.
Once you’ve become your student’s digital filter, you’ve reached your destination. Success!
The standardized entrance exam has become a major requirement in the college admissions process. While hundreds of colleges are becoming test optional, thousands still require that you submit the SAT or ACT as a part of your application. It’s important that every high school student create a test prep game plan.
Depending on your college admissions goals, you could take the PSAT, SAT, PLAN, ACT, AP, IB, TOFEL, or some other acronym. Most students will take one or two of those exams. The Pre-SAT (PSAT) is the only one with its own scholarship. The PSAT is administered to sophomores and juniors to become familiar with how the test is structured, but it does not count toward college admissions. It’s just for practice. However, juniors who score a 200 or higher will generally qualify for a National Merit Scholarship offered by the College Board. And most colleges offer scholarships (up to full tuition) for finalists!
Your test prep game plan should include taking the SAT and ACT at least once. The SAT measures your aptitude and overall reasoning abilities developed in primary and secondary school. This test covers critical reading, math, and writing. If you haven’t heard the SAT format is changing in 2016. If you’re good in math, you may want to take the SAT since math counts for 33% of your total score. However, guessing or marking wrong answers will count against you.
The ACT measures your achievement which is directly related to what you have learned in high school. You’ll be tested on English, math, reading, and science. So if you excel in science, be sure to take the ACT. They also don’t count wrong answers against your score.
After you take both the ACT and SAT during your junior year, I recommend retaking the test you scored higher on as a senior. For the colleges that use test scores for admissions, scoring higher will not only improve your chances of earning additional merit aid, your scores could also improve your chances of being admitted. You’re showing progress.
Along with your high school GPA, the standardized tests are used to help college admissions officers decide if you are a good academic fit for their college. While test scores will not predict how successful you will be in college, they may predict your academic success as a freshman.
High school and homeschool students should contact a guidance counselor or independent college planner for guidance finding quality test preparation resources. If you live in a metropolitan area, you can access personal tutors, group tutoring sessions, as well as online tutoring. If you live in the country, your best bet will to use online resources or connect with a high school teacher. Personal tutors will charge by the hour, but some places may offer free resources, sessions, or books.
Some free online sites that offer SAT and ACT test prep include, Number 2, Spark Notes, and Free SAT Prep. Free sites will not be full-service and may have lots of advertisements. Businesses that offer test prep for a fee include ePrep, Barron's, and Sylvan Learning. Although some companies will promise a 300-point SAT increase and a 3-point ACT increase, the results will be up to you – the student. What you use and how you prepare is important.
As you can tell, to prepare for the college entrance exams, you need test prep game plan. So during winter break, spring break, or over the summer, work on your plan. Earning higher test scores will not only improve your chances of earning additional merit aid, it could also have a significant impact on your chances of being admitted. And one of the most important regrets a high school senior has is not spending enough time preparing for the standardized tests.
Here are some final suggestions. Remember that free sites will have limited resources but can still answer some questions and check your work. If the free site does not have current material, the test questions may be outdated.
Paid sites will offer a diagnostic tool that will allow you to customize your curriculum so you can focus on what you need to learn. You should also take the quizzes, practorials, practice tests, and real tests. Some programs offer test taking strategies that may help you in high school as well!
Some also have a challenging but fun vocabulary section. Use it! The more you read, the more you know. (I bet you’ve never heard that one before.)
Too many students spend too much time studying for the test. I recommend a simple 3-4 plan. Three to four months before your scheduled test, study 3-4 days a week for 30-40 minutes per session. Balance your time between each section of the test. Studying in chunks of time will improve your results.
Once you find a test prep tutor or service use it! Determine to do your best to improve your chances of acceptance and merit aid.
When thinking about where to find scholarships, consider where you work, play, eat, or volunteer. There may be a scholarship from your favorite place waiting for you. Some of these are for high school seniors, some are for students in college. With short application windows, you need to be prepared to apply when the application opens. Bookmark these sites and prepare to win. Have fun!
What Do You Drink?
Once you are in college, connect with Dr Pepper on Facebook, update your profile, and authorize the Dr Pepper Tuition Giveaway application. Create your goal by answering “What is your one of a kind goal and how do you plan to make an impact on the world?” Then get 50 people to vote for your goal so you can be eligible to submit a video. Finalists compete for up to $100,000 in tuition. Sounds refreshing!
Before you go to college, you can apply for the Coca-Cola Scholars Program Scholarship. The CCSPS is an achievement-based scholarship awarded to high school seniors based on leadership and service that opens every August. This $20,000 scholarship it is awarded to 150 students. Winning Coca-Cola Scholars share a passion for social justice and many have overcome tremendous challenges to pursue their dreams. Coca-Cola also supports students in community college with two different types of scholarships. Have a coke and a scholarship!
What Do You Eat?
Asparagus Club Scholarship
If you are at least a college junior and are pursuing a career in the grocery industry, then put down those fries and apply for the Asparagus Club Scholarship. The winner wins $2,000 per semester for two years. And all the asparagus you can eat.
The KFC scholarship is not about eating chicken, but about serving chicken in a chicken restaurant. “The REACH Educational Grant Program™ helps KFC restaurant hourly Team Members and Shift Supervisors pursue their educational dreams. These $2,000 grants help Team Member recipients attend accredited four-year and two-year colleges, as well as trade/vocational schools.”
And for high school students who do not eat meat, fish, or fowl, you can apply for a vegetarian scholarship of $5,000 or $10,000. They are awarding students for promoting vegetarianism in their schools and/or communities. And many colleges offer vegetarian and vegan options on campus.
National Restaurant Association Scholarship
Do you love to eat? Do you want to work in the food industry? Are you a hungry college student? Do you have entrepreneurial ideas for a restaurant or grocery store? If you are hungry for something green ($3,500 - $7,500), then check the website for application details.
What Do You Wear?
Kohl’s Cares Scholarship Program
Middle school and high school students who volunteer in their community can be nominated by an adult. Volunteer efforts must have occurred in the last year and must have benefited people not related to the student. Local winners will each receive a $50 Kohl’s Gift Card. Regional winners will each receive a $1,000 scholarship for higher education. National winners will receive a $10,000 scholarship, plus Kohl’s will donate $1,000 to a nonprofit of the student’s choice.
What Do You Use?
Duck Tape “Stuck at Prom”
High school juniors and seniors who want to creatively express themselves by making a prom dress and tux, can win up to $10,000 each and $5,000 for their high school. They also have honorable mentions for best purse, shoes, corsage, tie, jewelry and prop.
What is your GPA (Grit - Potential - Ambition)? Sometimes life circumstances prevent students from their dream of attending college. For those dealing with personal responsibilities at home or in their communities, the Dell Scholars program, an initiative of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, recognizes students who have overcome significant obstacles to pursue their educations. Not only will you get a $20,000 college scholarship, laptop, and textbook credits, they will work with you throughout your college experience to help you succeed.
What Do You Drive?
Toyota Teen Drive 365 Video Challenge
Grab your phone or video camera and create a 60-90 second video that makes teen drivers think carefully above driving safely. The grand prize winner will get a chance to reshoot their video with a Discovery Film Crew. High school students (9-12g) can work alone or with up to 4 students for awards of $15,000, $10,000, and $7,500. That is serious cash! Just don’t film this if you are driving. Kinda defeats the purpose.
Where Do You Bank?
Regions Riding Forward Scholarship Essay Contest
Hopefully you have opened a bank account and are learning how to manage your money. For this scholarship, you’ll write a 500-word essay about a famous or local African-American that has inspired and motivated you. Regions will award a $5,000 scholarship to 16 high school seniors who live in states with Regions branches and will attend college in the fall. Regions will award a $3,500 scholarship to 16 freshmen, sophomores or juniors who currently attend college in or permanently reside in states with Regions branches. Make it count. You could earn $10 per word!
Now it's your turn to hunt for scholarships where you work, play, eat, or volunteer.
Combining my youth ministry and educational consulting experience, I guide students to connect higher education with God's calling.